How Whitetail Bucks Move Through Thick Cover

I was walking one of the trails at Chaffee Crossing when I noticed movement next to me in the thick brush. I was surprised to see a large whitetail buck watching me. I slowly got my camera up and got this shot of the buck through the thick brush. I thought for sure this buck would take off running, but all it did was slowly turn and walk further into the brush away from me. I at first thought I would not like the image I took but after looking at it on my computer, I grew to like it. This is an old photo I took back in February 2009 that I don’t think I ever shared anywhere but Flickr.

Whitetail Buck In Thick Brush
Whitetail Buck In Thick Brush

Whitetail bucks are surprisingly adept at navigating thick brush with their impressive antlers, and they use a variety of strategies to get through dense cover unscathed:

Body Positioning:

  • Turning the rack sideways: They can tilt their head and turn their antlers sideways, allowing them to pass through narrow openings without snagging. This minimizes the overall width they need to clear.
  • Ducking low: Lowering their head and neck brings the antlers closer to their body, reducing their profile and creating more clearance.
  • Using their body size: Mature bucks are larger and stronger than does and younger bucks, giving them more leverage to push through the thicker brush.

Movement Techniques:

  • Picking paths: Experienced bucks tend to favor established deer trails within the brush, which offer some level of clearance. They may also utilize natural openings like animal burrows or fallen logs.
  • Cautious movement: They move slowly and deliberately, carefully assessing their surroundings to avoid getting their antlers stuck.
  • Pushing and breaking: When necessary, they might use their strength to push aside smaller branches or break weaker ones to create a passage.

Additional Factors:

  • Pressure: When pressured by hunters, bucks tend to avoid open areas and seek refuge in thick cover, sometimes utilizing brush even if it means navigating with more caution.
  • Habitat type: The type of brush also plays a role. Dense, thorny thickets with many branches can be more challenging than sparse brush with larger gaps.

It’s important to remember that while whitetail bucks are skilled at navigating thick brush, it can still be an obstacle course. They might lose some energy pushing through dense cover, and their large antlers do make them more vulnerable to getting snagged and injured in certain situations.

Image Information:

  • Date: 02/08/09
  • Time: 9:14 AM
  • Camera: Canon EOS 40D
  • Lens: Canon 500 f4
  • ISO: 500
  • Aperture: 5.6
  • Shutter: 1/500
  • Exp. Comp.: 0
  • Lens (mm): 500
  • Program Mode: Aperture Priority